Having a better understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder in kids can ultimately help you support your child to feel more comfortable and in control.
Imagine that you are in a noisy room with lots of chatter and various sounds. You start to feel flustered and overwhelmed by your senses, frustration creeping in. The noise is too loud, and too much, which makes you feel out of sorts, uncomfortable, and less in control. This is one example of how a person might feel when their senses are overstimulated. We all have our nuances when it comes to senses, but if this type of thing happens often, or impedes daily life, it may be Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Sensory Processing Disorder Defined
Our senses help us make sense of the world around us. For individuals with SPD, sensory information isn’t as easily organized in the brain. SPD is a neurological condition that interferes with the brain’s ability to interpret sensory information. In the example above, the sensory experience mostly involved sound. However, a person with SPD can have sensitivity in any or multiple senses- sight, taste, smell, sound, touch, or movement. For some, SPD involves a heightened response to their environment, while others actually seek more intense sensory experiences. SPD is not typically a stand-alone condition. The prevalence of SPD is higher in gifted kids and kids with Autism or ADHD. Like other conditions, SPD occurs on a spectrum. For a more in-depth look at SPD, and resources specific to this condition, check out the STAR institute.
Kids with SPD
If your child has SPD, you may notice that certain sensory experiences can trigger them. For instance, they may be hypersensitive to a texture or type of fabric. Wearing particular items of clothing, like socks or shoes, can be an overwhelming experience. This in turn can make simple tasks a little more complicated. Like getting ready for school, or getting out the front door on time. For other kids with SPD, it could be a specific odor or food that provokes discomfort or even a meltdown. Kids with SPD may also have trouble with coordination and spatial recognition. Whatever the case, it’s important to understand that sensory difficulties do not happen in isolation. Sensory Processing Disorder can affect how your child engages with others and self-regulates, impacting things like playtime and emotional control. That’s why it’s important to consider the whole child when thinking about SPD.
How to Help
Sensory Processing Disorder is complex, but there are ways to help. Awareness of potential triggers can help you and your child better plan for their sensory processing needs. There are numerous activities and exercises that help kids with SPD practice sensory integration. Here are a few quick and easy deep touch pressure ideas and sensory activities for kids with autism. Occupational Therapy is a common intervention for SPD, and one to consider if you are seeking professional support. Therapy should be individualized and help kids with SPD take part in normal childhood activities. Your child’s pediatrician can help connect with you a specialist.